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County Champs - Hythe, Kent. 3rd January 2015 

So after all the Christmas celebrations the serious business of the County Championships fell early in the new year. A truly awful rainy day, very wet and muddy underfoot and really challenging for all the athletes. Everyone had to work incredibly hard over this difficult and treacherous course- in fact so difficult that the senior events were shortened as a young lady in the U17/20 race broke her leg in the valley part of the course leading to officials deciding quite rightly that it was becoming dangerous to use the whole of the original course.

As is the norm, the U13 girls kicked off the racing, 62 girls in total, six young ladies in IEK vests grouped together on the line taking the full force of the cold rain as the gun went. Alex Millard very much took this race by the scruff, leading the field around the first thousand or so meters before descending down into the valley and out of sight. I next saw her coming back up the hill in fourth and finally chasing hard to secure a fantastic third place. I later found out that a fall in the valley cost a higher finish, but Alex was very happy rightly so with her performance and place. Next in Sophia Smith, her first race of the season and I’m pleased to say returning to some form and finishing in very determined style in 17th place. Just behind her in 19th, Minty Loxton-Barnard shows all the signs of the talent we were told she has since she joined us just a few short weeks ago - a great start to her competition life here in Kent. Emily Heasman 32nd and Jade Waters 36th showing, I thought, great determination and tenacity in these difficult conditions, both finished really well and are surely great prospects and valuable additions to IEK. Louise Flynn 37th chasing Jade really hard, just 2 seconds between, them a third place medal for the team and much for us to be excited about!

U13 boys up next Joe Laffey and Joseph Fox showing what great representatives of the club they are. 53 boys in total plugging out over a course now churned up by the previous race. Both boys featured well Joseph Fox clearly with Joe Laffey in his sites and chasing him down hard in the end finishing just two places and 4 seconds behind Master Laffey in 20th. A good effort ,both these chaps have winning attitudes I am sure they will build on this result and go from strength to strength.

In the U15 girls 45 ladies lined up. Kathleen Faes a Tonbridge athlete who trains with Peter's group won the event being pushed hard by a Blackheath athlete. Our first girl home was Ella Fox in 10th. Ella is so very determined, a real runners runner, I think this cross country season will see her in good shape for the summer. Next athlete home ,Jesse Carley 15th - everyone knows I’m very proud of Jesse. Her attitude and her outlook, for me, mark her out as an outstanding athlete who has so much to look forward to and hopefully 2015 will bring her the success she deserves. Another young lady finding her way with a steely determination was Alice Mount 23rd . I actually think Alice is better than this place and in the right race, concentration a top 15 is within her grasp no doubt about it. Laura Parrish is, I’m sure, going to be like a butterfly in the spring; coming out of a cocoon and emerging as a faster stronger runner and I hope getting all the benefits that her tenacity deserves after this difficult cross country season. A 38th place is not a genuine reward for a young lady of this talent!! A 4th place overall for the team.

In the U15 boys, runners lined up, two of them ours. In Marcus Etheridge and Thomas Devereux we have two lads who are very new to competition, and particularly at this level- both are learning fast, almost a baptism of fire. Marcus did really well finishing strongly in 22nd and Thomas battling hard 58th . Well done boys a good effort all round.

The U17 and U20 ladies raced together and what a treat it was.  Sabrina Sinha, another athlete under Peter’s wing, and Amy Old slugging it out from start to finish. Sabrina finally crossing the line first winning the U17 race and Amy second over the line, but crowning herself champion in the U20s. I have to say I’ve never seen Amy more focussed, more determined and if I’m honest more like a future international than I did here today. WOW what a marker she has thrown down! Also in the U17 Abigail Fox looks like she is definitely returning to some form. This was by far her best performance of this winter season and I’m looking forward to her building from this result - 7th place is a good return for her hard work. A clearly out of sorts Sarah Hall came in 24th. I later found out that a real dose of Flu over Christmas has knocked her sideways and I hope I am not talking out of line when I say it clearly affected her performance as she has had a breakthrough season thus far. I believe once she has got her mojo back, great things beckon in the Southerns! In the U20 race I was very pleased to see Lilly Coward getting some reward for all her consistent work in training- a 5th place guarantees a Kent vest and I look forward to watching her in the next race, I would hope buoyed by this run!

Again the U17 and U20 men were run together a good decision I think. We have such strength in the U20's at the moment, Abel Tsegay is frankly in my eyes an utterly fantastic athlete and I delight in watching him run both in training and racing. He is lifting the performance of all around him, and has a can do attitude which I believe will see him all the way to fulfilling his running dreams. A hard fought 1st place the reward for his outstanding efforts today. As a club we are blessed with hard working athletes with great attitudes - it's one of the reasons I delight in my association with the club - none more so than Jack Goss 4th, William Stockwell 10th, Dylan Rigby 18th and Ben Hall 21st. Jack at last returning to the form that we all know he is capable of and giving us a glimpse of what is to come. William running out of his shoes and getting a reward that has been some time coming. Great runs from both guys and Dylan plugging away at something that, let’s be frank, he would rather not be doing but knowing he will get the benefits as the track season opens up and rather pleased with his 18th place rightly so.

Ben Hall, I’ve said it before I will say it again, great attitude, great determination, great outlook I’m sure that like his sister has proved keep plugging away then it will come good. Lastly Bobby Harrop 23rd, from time to time makes me smile as he plugs away regardless. He knows he wasn’t going to win but he turned up on an awful day, determined it seemed to me to have fun. He was smiling, laughing but showed real strengths to grind this very difficult race out to the finish was proud of him! The U17 Thomas Platt 16th seems to be going from strength to strength and looks very capable of making the Kent squad very soon, likewise Jamie Carley 18th training really hard at the moment must be on the precipice of some real success and I look forward to watching them both race again.

The penultimate event was the senior men, the race now shortened to something like 8-9k - phew!  157 guys lined up, Tim Corby and Michael Gallyer-Barnet representing us. Tim had an excellent run always in the front group looking in great form and rewards with a super 11th place finish. MGB is an effervescent sort of bloke, I always think beneath that exterior lays a man with much guts and determination not only to compete but to give it a real go. 135th place which I hope he was pleased with well done guys.

Lastly the senior ladies. 76 competitors Vicky Talbot–Rosner and Sue Cooper our representatives and both performing with great determination. Vicky rewarded with 31st place, Sue 65th which I want to tell you over such a horrid now very churned up course was some achievement. Well done ladies.

This report is compiled by me Ralph Noel not in my role as chairman but as a fan, a supporter (my own son wasn’t racing) so I had no other reason to be there other than bringing and taking the tent they are my own views and thoughts.